The 2019 preseason AP and Coaches’ Polls did not include Tennessee football in the top 25. But could the Volunteers get there before the end of September?
To nobody’s surprise, Tennessee football was nowhere to be found in the preseason AP Poll or Coaches’ Poll for 2019. However, the Vols did receive a vote in the Coaches’ Poll, and they are in great position for a red-hot start to the season.
Entering Jeremy Pruitt’s second year, UT will be considered a major disappointment if they don’t start the season 3-0. After all, their one tough game is against the BYU Cougars. Now, BYU is tough, but the game is in Knoxville and one the Vols should win.
BYU is surrounded by the Georgia State Panthers to open the season and the Chattanooga Mocs in the third game of the season. So they have a clear path to 3-0 before facing the Florida Gators on the road.
Could this path get them into the top 25 in September? After all, a major program like the Vols are not likely to be outside of the top 25 if they start 3-0, regardless of where they began the preseason. They are more likely to be overrated than underrated if you look at their history.
Also, if Florida gets off to a red-hot start in Dan Mullen’s second season, which will include beating the Kentucky Wildcats and Miami Hurricanes, then won’t media members and even coaches vote the Vols in to subliminally hype up that game? It’s clear by putting it on CBS every year despite Florida’s dominance in the series that people still want this to be THE game.
This happened back in 2012. UT was coming off back to back losing seasons, they had not won more than seven games in five years, and they had not been in the top 25 since the opening week of the 2008 season. But after beating the N.C. State Wolfpack and, ironically, Georgia State Panthers, they were in the top 25 by Week Three, only to fall out after losing to Florida.
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Hey, it could happen again. If Tennessee football does what they’re predicted to do, they’ll easily be 3-0 heading into Gainesville. By that point, there will have been six games featuring preseason top 25 teams playing each other and countless other involving teams ahead of the Vols receiving votes.
Factoring in the number of teams likely to suffer upset losses, and it’s very plausible to see the Vols reach the top 25 by the time they face Florida if they remain undefeated. In fact, they could get their if they do as they should and beat BYU in Week Two. That would be a solid enough win for Jeremy Pruitt’s program to sell improvement.
Now, what happens after that is obviously up in the air. UT plays Florida, the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide over a four-game span, and their other game is against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who are led by an offensive genius in Joe Moorhead and will be coming off a bye week. So they almost certainly won’t stay in the top 25.
But it will be good for Tennessee football’s relevance early in Pruitt’s second year to get there. And, after a brutal October, if they can follow that up with a strong finish to the season, they just might have something to sell to recruits on a national stage. But the first step is obviously getting to 3-0 and beating Georgia State, BYU and Chattanooga.